Beyond the obvious plaudits--the 2001 Scudetto--the Sensi family's greatest gift to Roma was the unique bond they forged with a generation of fans. For those of us who discovered our beloved club in the 21st century, the familial atmosphere forged between the players and fans was perhaps the greatest draw of this club. Even as you strained your eyes to see a poorly pixelated Francesco Totti take on the Inter Milan juggernaut of the mid 00's on your gigantic desktop computer, the site of Franco Sensi smiling in the stands and the throngs of well wishers that surrounded him let you know that something was different about the club you arbitrarily chose to follow.
So, it was with great curiosity and much hesitation that we opened our hearts to a new steward in 2011. Although he shared the same silver hair and welcoming smile, you never got the same sense of affection from Roma's new head man, Thomas DiBenedetto. You knew things would be different, but how much could one man possibly rock the boat anyway?
Then, seemingly in an instant, everything changed. Luis Enrique, the man charged with ushering in a new era of success for the club, decided to do so with a uniquely Spanish twist, scouring the furthest reaches of Ferdinand and Isabella's once proud empire for anyone capable of kicking a ball.
The Roma we had grown to love had nearly vanished in an instant. The names and faces were wholly unfamiliar, some Spanish some Danish, but you couldn't help but be excited; change has that effect by its very nature. And if it feels as though we've been inextricably linked to this Roma Reformation, there's a good reason: CdT's birth more or less coincided with the American takeover, so we're probably more invested in their success than we should be, which leads us to the topic at hand...
Believe it or not, this 200+ word preamble was just a setup for a nostalgic Saturday. With precious little going on in the (domestic) football world, I thought it would be fun to take a look at where some of those woebegone players are now. Fair warning, much like Roma's own Enrique experience, it's been a mixed bag.
We'll start off with Coco, the lone survivor of the failed Enrique experiment. Of course, Lamela's post-Roma career got off to a horrendous start, as he fell flat on his face during his first two seasons with Tottenham, registering only nine league appearances during his first season. While Lamela hasn't come close to his 15 goal binge during the 2012-2013 season, he's become a lynchpin in Spurs title ambitions and probably the only name on this list we'd go crawling back to.
Bojan, Bojan, Bojan. Immense talent, terrible haircut, disappointing career. Seldom does a player graduate from Barcelona's famed academy, La Masia, with as much hype as Bojan. After making his first team debut at all of 17-years-old, the early returns on Bojan were quite promising, but you know what happens when to put hope in one hand and shit in the other.
Bojan was simply too slight a frame to survive in Serie A, leading Roma to offload him after only one season. Since leaving the Eternal City, Bojan has had stints with Milan and Ajax before ultimately finding a home with Stoke in the Premiership where he currently has five goals in 22 appearances. His career hasn't panned out like many imagined, but you just know this kid will end up playing top flight football for, like, 15 years.
Billed as Roma's solution at leftback (how many times have we heard that now?), Angel, a relatively unknown player, was fresh off a season in which he led La Liga in crossing. Couple that with his sound defensive abilities and it looked like Roma was set for a few seasons. It's hard to say exactly what went wrong, he made 27 appearances during his lone season after all, but Angel just wasn't up to snuff and soon found himself back on the Iberian Peninsula, shuffling between Real Sociedad and Porto, his current locale, though he's played all of 270 minutes this season. Safe to say, no one is shedding a tear over his departure.
Roma learned the World Cup hero lesson the hard way on this one. A year removed from helping the Netherlands reach the finals of the 2010 World Cup, Roma drank the kool aid and made Stek their number one keeper. After 48 largely uninspiring appearances for Roma, Stek was shown the bench by Zeman, who inexplicably preferred Mauro Goicoechea, before being sold to Fulham in the summer of 2013. While he wasn't long for the Cottagers, Stekelenburg eventually found a home in England, where he currently mans the gates for Southampton.
This one still stings a bit, doesn't it? This guy had it all: size, speed, strength, that cool little A-E letter thingy in his name, he was the perfect replacement for Philippe Mexes. Unfortunately, it takes more than looks to be a proper footballer. Kjaer was just too careless at the back, relying too often on his physical tools rather than reading the game, leading Roma to pass on making the move permanent. Fortunately for Kjaer, his career rebounded after two successful seasons in France with Lille. Kjaer is currently loving like in Turkey, where he's made 21 appearances for Fenerbahçe. I'd give him another chance, but I may be in the minority on that one.
With Mexes out the door, Roma had to fulfill the league mandated neck tattoo quota. Enter Gago, the jack of all trades Argentine midfielder. Due to his pliable skillset, Gago was a mainstay for Enrique that season, garnering 30 appearances in 2011-2012 before moving to Valencia the following year. Gago has since returned home, moving to Boca Juniors in 2013 where he's remained ever since.
Marquinho, one letter removed from greatness, had a rather non-descript Roma career. Ostensibly brought in to eat up minutes, Singular did just that. Over three seasons in Roma, Marquino made 50+ appearances, scoring seven goals along the way. Since leaving Roma, Marquinho has been more a collector of passport stamps than match minutes, making stops in Verona, Udinese, Al-ittihad and, most recently, Al-Ahli FC in Saudi Arabia. It's the journeyman's life for Marquinho, but he was a decent enough player while he was here.
Still just 24-years-old, Borini is already on his sixth team, though in fairness to him, he's been with Sunderland for three seasons now. While Borini was once destined for greatness (he signed with Chelsea as a teenager), he now has the looks of a midtable marksmen. After scoring an impressive nine goals for Roma, Borini's big(ish) money move to Liverpool failed miserably, as he score only two league goals for the Reds in parts of two seasons. Borini, as we mentioned, has made a home for himself with Sunderland, scoring three goals in 17 appearances this season. He may surprise us yet, but he's probably where he should be at this point; good but not great.
Pablo Daniel Osvaldo
We'll end our look back with our favorite Marco Borriello wanna be. PDO's Roma career had it all: goals (27 of 'em to be exact), great hair, resplendent beards, teammate slapping, machine gun celebrations and even public nudity. Since turning pro in 2005, PDO has played for a full dozen clubs, making stops in Spain, Italy, England, Portugal and Argentina. No matter the stop, the story has been the same--sensational skills, shit for brains. PDO is, in many ways, the epitome of what's wrong with the modern athlete; entitled, cocky and selfish, but goddamnit if he can't play.
Roma was undoubtedly the highwater mark of his career, but eventually the club wore tired of his prima donna ways and somehow, someway managed to get €15 million from Southampton for his services, who summarily loaned him out not once (to Juve where he scored his only goal against us), not twice (Inter), but thrice (Boca Juniors). PDO's most recent stint in Italy, with Inter in 2014-2015 was actually pretty successful, as he bagged five goals in 12 appearances, but even the Nerazzurri couldn't tolerate his antics.
The Enrique experiment was an exciting time, but the contrasting fortunes of the men selected by Lucho is testament to its ultimate failure. The players were simply too young, too fragile or too crazy to ensure success. The Luis Enrique experience, much like bullfighting, paella and surrealist painting, is best left to the Spanish.